Yesterday, the FBI publicly announced that their investigation into the mass shooting in San Bernardino had become a terrorism probe. After discovering a Facebook posting by Tashfeen Malik pledging allegiance to ISIS, the FBI took over the investigation. During the presser, the FBI also said that they had some evidence that Malik and Syed Farook had been in contact with “foreign terrorist organizations” as well:
The FBI is investigating the fatal shooting of 14 people in California by a married couple as an “act of terrorism,” officials said on Friday, noting the wife was believed to have pledged allegiance to a leader of the militant group Islamic State.
While the FBI said it lacked evidence the couple belonged to a larger organization of extremists, the Los Angeles Times cited a federal law enforcement source in reporting that the husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, had contact with at least two militant groups overseas, including the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front in Syria.
While the FBI made it clear that the mass shooting was an act of terrorism, that clarity didn’t make it all the way up the chain of command. Barack Obama still hedges his bets in today’s weekly radio address, only allowing for the possibility that this might be terrorism. As the New York Times reports, Obama still only has one prescription no matter the ailment — more gun laws and bans:
President Obama edged closer Saturday to declaring the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., that killed 14 people a terrorist attack, but stuck to his prescription that the answer to preventing such tragedies was gun limits.
“It is entirely possible that these two attackers were radicalized to commit this act of terror,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio address, broadcast a day after the F.B.I. declared that it was treating the massacre as an act of terror. “And if so, it would underscore a threat we’ve been focused on for years — the danger of people succumbing to violent extremist ideologies.”
Well, if your only tool is a hammer, every problem begins looking like a nail, amirite?
Josh Kraushaar called this “bizarre”:
Bizarre: Obama, in radio address, still isn't calling SB attacks terrorism — contra the FBI. Very unusual. pic.twitter.com/gT7Y53dJFg
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) December 5, 2015
And his solution is … wait for it …
“We know that the killers in San Bernardino used military-style assault weapons — weapons of war — to kill as many people as they could,” he said. “It’s another tragic reminder that here in America it’s way too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun.”
Actually, there are a couple of larger problems here. The first is that Malik’s entry into the US on a K-1 visa wasn’t properly checked. Had it been, the State Department would have caught the fact that she gave them a fictitious address. They might then have discovered that Malik had suddenly become more Islamist a couple of years before becoming betrothed to Farook, especially if they had checked in with her relatives:
Hifza Batool tells The Associated Press on Saturday other relatives have said that Malik, who was her step-niece, used to wear Western clothes but began wearing the hijab head covering or the all-covering burqa donned by the most conservative Muslim women about three years ago.
“I recently heard it from relatives that she has become a religious person and she often tells people to live according to the teachings of Islam,” said Batool, 35, a private school teacher who lives in Karor Lal Esam, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) southwest of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
The second problem is that the tougher gun laws Obama wants already exist in California. In fact, California’s laws are tougher than those proposed by Obama. The Washington Post cited them yesterday as the toughest in the nation, with background checks required for private sales, mandatory 10-day wait times, and bans on so-called “assault weapons.” How did that work out in San Bernardino this week? (For that matter, how did roughly the same laws in Connecticut — cited by the Post as the second-toughest state in the Union for gun regulations — work out in Newtown a few years back in a non-terrorism case?) Gun control didn’t stop terrorism in California, which may be why Obama wants to ignore the FBI’s findings that this was a case of radical Islamist jihad conducted by someone who’d been given a green light by his State Department.
Next, Obama moved to the no-fly list, demanding that Congress bar anyone appearing on it from owning firearms:
“Right now, people on the no-fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun. That is insane,” Mr. Obama said. “If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun. And so I’m calling on Congress to close this loophole, now. We may not be able to prevent every tragedy, but — at a bare minimum — we shouldn’t be making it so easy for potential terrorists or criminals to get their hands on a gun that they could use against Americans.”
Maybe we shouldn’t allow people in the country whose names would end up on a no-fly list had we conducted the background check into their visa application seriously. Then we might avoid having a potential terrorist or two that we then need to put on no-fly-lists, eh? This proposal has a number of flaws, the biggest of which is that there is no due process for sticking people on the no-fly list, and that mistakes get made in its administration. It’s one of those trade-off areas that still annoy libertarians, but generally the public agrees that a no-fly list is a necessity in the post-9/11 world. But that listing doesn’t result in denying the people on that list their civil rights in any other context, as no due process takes place; there is no adjudication in which those listed are determined in a court proceeding or even an administrative hearing to be a national security risk.
If we are to deny those listed their constitutional rights, then it should take place through a court action in which the accused can challenge the allegations openly and demand to see the evidence. Or at least that’s the way the Constitution is supposed to work. Maybe someone should brief the man who used to teach constitutional law on that.
Besides, let’s ask this question in response: Is there any evidence that Syed Farook or Tashfeen Malik were on the no-fly list? After all, we had given Malik a visa in 2014 and a green card this summer, and she didn’t arrive in America on a slow boat from China. Before this week, did the FBI even know of the couple’s existence? Based on the initial headscratching from authorities, the answer seems to be a resounding no. So this is yet another in a long line of Barack Obama non-sequiturs in pursuit of his personal hobby horses.
Once again, Obama seems uninterested in terrorism even when the FBI believes it has found it, but he’s really interested in pushing gun-control solutions that would not have impacted this case a single whit. As Kraushaar says, it’s getting pretty bizarre, but it does give us a clear look at the priorities of this White House.
Update: I misspelled Josh Kraushaar’s last name in two places. I’ve fixed them above, and my apologies to Josh for the error.